Credit report problems can be solved by using the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), one of several credit laws that protect consumers and the starting point for credit report help. This federal law promotes the accuracy and privacy of information kept and distributed during the consumer credit reporting process. Violations of the FCRA (including re-aging credit debt) and other consumer protection statutes such as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and/or State collection and credit reporting laws can entitle you to a cash award, punitive damages, attorney fees and court costs, and often more importantly, allow you to correct and protect your credit report in the future.
Fair Credit Reporting Act Summary
Fair credit reporting requirements are critical. The accuracy of your credit report can affect whether you qualify for a loan and at what interest rate. Additionally, protecting privacy of your information guards against identity theft, a very serious problem that can ultimately affect your ability to get credit, insurance, or even a job.
Reporting violations include where your credit report contains information that is inaccurate, incomplete, disputed or outdated. And while any and all accounts may be misreported, medical bills, debts incurred when you are expecting repossession and credit card bills are amongst the most frequent violators.
- The FCRA applies to credit report errors made by consumer reporting agencies, for example, Transunion, Equifax, and Experian. It also applies to companies furnishing information to credit reporting agencies and the users of a consumer report, such as a lender making a credit decision.
- The FCRA applies when a consumer reporting agency collects information, a creditor provides information to the consumer reporting agency, or a creditor uses a consumer report to make a credit decision. For example:
- If a consumer applies for credit and is denied and that creditor used a consumer report in making that decision, the creditor must provide a notice to the consumer stating that the creditor used a consumer report in its decision and give the consumer the opportunity to request the consumer report from the consumer reporting agency.
- If a company reports incorrect information about a consumer to a consumer reporting agency, the consumer has the right to dispute the information with the consumer reporting agency.
- If a credit card company sends a consumer a “pre-approved” credit card solicitation, the solicitation must include a firm offer of credit, meaning that the offer included in the solicitation must be the credit the consumer will receive if she accepts the offer.
If a consumer is a victim of identity theft, the consumer can request that any debts incurred as a result of that identity theft be blocked from a consumer report.
- Anyone who uses a credit report or another type of consumer report to deny your application for credit, insurance, or employment – or to take another adverse action against you – must tell you, and must give you the name, address, and phone number of the agency that provided the information.
- You may request and obtain all the information about you in the files of a consumer reporting agency with your credit scores explained.
Credit scores are numerical summaries of your credit-worthiness based on information from credit bureaus.
If you identify information in your file that is incomplete or inaccurate, and report it to the consumer reporting agency, the agency must investigate unless your dispute is frivolous. Use this sample dispute letter.
In most cases, a consumer reporting agency may not report negative information that is more than seven years old, or bankruptcies that are more than 10 years old.
Inaccurate, incomplete or unverifiable information must be removed or corrected, usually within 30 days. However, a consumer reporting agency may continue to report information it has verified as accurate. A consumer reporting agency may provide information about you only to people with a valid need — usually to consider an application with a creditor, insurer, employer, landlord, or other business.
- A consumer reporting agency may not give out information about you to your employer, or a potential
employer, without your written consent given to the employer.
Unsolicited “prescreened” offers for credit and insurance must include a toll-free phone number you can call if you choose to remove your name and address from the lists these offers are based on.
Identity theft victims and active duty military personnel have additional rights.
- If a consumer reporting agency, or, in some cases, a user of consumer reports or a furnisher of information to a consumer reporting agency violates the FCRA, you may be able to sue in state or federal court. Violations of these statutes require compensation to you for the damages suffered, plus an additional amount up to $1,000 per violation, plus punitive damages, attorney fees and court costs, and often more importantly, allow you to correct and protect your credit report in the future.
Fair Credit Reporting Act Dispute Process
The Fair Credit Reporting Act process differs depending on the nature of your specific concerns. For example, impermissible pulls and incorrect reporting by a debt collector can be immediately actionable, but inaccurate reporting by a bureau or creditor may require a series of dispute and responses before your FCRA rights will arise. And though each person’s situation is different and the results may vary depending upon the facts, please find the basic steps of how the Fair Credit Reporting Act process works outlined below. You can also contact an experienced Fair Credit Reporting Act attorney for a free, no obligation case review, BIG damages can be awarded to you.
PULL AND REVIEW YOUR CREDIT REPORTS
You should consider pulling current copies of all three credit reports and reviewing them for errors or inaccuracies at least once a year. To order a copy of your credit reports, visit the websites of the three credit reporting agencies or call their toll free numbers:
- TRANS UNION: 1-800-916-8800
- EXPERIAN: 1-888-397-3742
- EQUIFAX: 1-800-685-1111
NOTE: You are entitled to ONE FREE COPY of each of your three credit reports each year by accessing this website: www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling: 1-877-322-8228. You are also entitled to a FREE credit report if you have been turned down for credit. Send a copy of your denial letter to the credit reporting agencies and they will mail you a free credit report.
SUBMIT YOUR CREDIT REPORTS FOR ATTORNEY REVIEW
If you have already completed the credit report dispute process or you are unsure what to do next, call 888-332-7252 to discuss your potential case with our Fair Credit team. One of our attorneys can review your information and reports to determine whether you need to re-initiate the dispute process and provide other assistance and guidance, including forms that you may need at this time.
WRITTEN DISPUTE TO THE CREDIT REPORTING AGENCIES
If a dispute is required, you must dispute all inaccuracies that appear on your credit report directly to three credit reporting agencies (i.e. Trans Union, Experian and Equifax). Direct disputes are the only disputes that allow you to take full advantage of your legal rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
CONTENTS OF YOUR CREDIT REPORT DISPUTE
Your complaint should be in writing as opposed to either a telephone call or online. While the telephonic or online dispute process will cause an investigation to occur, they are more likely to fail in producing good results; the amount of proof you can provide them to assist in handling your dispute via these methods, is limited. This brings us to our next points:
Make sure you provide adequate detail as to what exactly is inaccurate about the report, including the account numbers of any erroneous trade lines. You should also dispute any incorrect spellings of your name, inaccurate date of birth, social security number, or addresses listed on your report;
Enclose copies of any supporting documents or other evidence that backs up your complaint;
Provide adequate identifying information about yourself, including your correct date of birth, address and social security number. This will ensure that your entire dispute is reviewed.
MERGED IDENTITY WITH ANOTHER PERSON
If you have the same or similar name as another family member (ie: Jr., Sr., III, etc.), if you are a twin that shares the same birthday with a sibling, or if you have a common name (ie: John Smith), your credit file may report information belonging to both you and another person.
If this situation has happened to you, it may help by alerting the three credit bureaus by using the phrase, “I believe I have a MERGED FILE.”
You can also add a “CONSUMER STATEMENT” to your credit report. This is a statement written by you, (up to 100 words in length), that will appear on your credit report. You should explain in your consumer statement that your information has been merged with another person with a similar identity. Ask that all creditors verify all of your personal information, including your full name, date of birth, address, and social security number, before accessing or reporting account information on your credit report.
ASSISTANCE AND EXAMPLE FORMS FOR YOUR CREDIT REPORT DISPUTE
Here is a sample dispute letter for your convenience. You may use this as a guide when creating your own letter but should not be considered legal advice. Remember to give specific reasons for why the accounts are inaccurate, and what the credit reporting agencies should do to correct the errors.
Mail your completed dispute letters and enclosures to the following addresses. We recommend that you send your disputes via certified mail.
- Trans Union: PO Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016
- Experian: P.O. Box 4500, Allen, TX 75013
- Equifax: PO Box 740256, Atlanta, GA 30374
CONTACT US WHEN DISPUTE IS COMPLETE
Your dispute to the agencies ignites a duty on their part to notify the creditor(s) of your dispute and provide the creditors with all relevant information regarding your dispute. Then, both companies must complete the entire investigation within 30 days of the date your dispute is received by the credit reporting agencies. When the investigations are completed, the agencies will send you their investigation results along with an updated copy of your credit report including any revisions they may have made. Contact us once you have received your investigation results.